Site-management agreements for chuggers

As face-to-face fundraising continues to spark debate, Sophie Hudson looks at what different councils are doing to manage street fundraisers

Manchester: The city's Market Street
Manchester: The city's Market Street

Face-to-face fundraising has been in the media spotlight over the past few weeks after a Newsnight feature highlighted how much charities pay agencies to carry out the work.

A recent article in the Manchester Evening News, which said city centre bosses were thinking of setting up their own code of conduct for street fundraisers, attracted more than 100 comments from visitors to the newspaper's website, many of whom claimed to feel harassed by chuggers.

Manchester City Council has since set up a meeting with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association and will next month discuss putting in place a site-management agreement. Such an agreement can be established with the PFRA to help decide where street fundraising can take place, how many fundraisers are allowed to be present and when they can carry out their fundraising.

Despite some vociferous complaints from people about the level of face-to-face activity, only 39 local authorities have put such agreements in place. The PFRA regulates these agreements, without any charge to the local authority, and is the main point of contact if a fundraising team breaches the rules.

Norwich City Council launched its new SMA earlier this month. Stefan Gurney, the city centre manager for Norwich, said the process of setting it up had been straightforward.

So why have so few done it? Clint Jones, city centre manager for Plymouth, said he had been getting at least one complaint a week from members of the public about street fundraisers, but he was not aware of any way to manage these fundraisers and had never heard of the PFRA. On hearing about SMAs, he said he wanted to look into them immediately.

Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the PFRA, said it was hard for the organisation to contact more than 400 councils in England individually. Instead, the organisation responded to the "steady stream" of local authorities that approached it.

He said that when SMAs were put in place, the number of complaints about fundraisers generally went down, mainly because they helped to improve public perception.

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management, said he was aware of few towns that had SMAs with the PFRA, but recommended that towns should manage street fundraisers in some way.

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